Waffle Iron Winter Squash

October 27, 2014 in Side Dishes

Winter squash done in a waffle iron. Yes, waffle iron!

Waffle Iron Winter Squash

Winter squash cooked with a waffle iron. Who knew?

Yes, you read that right: Acorn Squash Rings and Butternut Squash Slices cooked with a waffle iron.

When the weather gets cooler and your grill is covered for the winter, you can still get that “grilled” flavor – with a waffle iron. Last summer I saw things you can cook on a waffle iron by Buzzfeed – and they were mostly things cooked with batter, but I wanted to try some veggies. I tried a bunch of things and these squash rings were my favorite.

This squash is cooked with the waffle iron in just about 5 minutes – with the perfect flavor and texture. And then I brushed them while still hot with a Maple Chipotle Glaze. The idea for the maple glaze came from Pantry Queen Lydia at Perfect Pantry.  ( I used 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper, minced, and a dash of salt. You just brush on the glaze as soon as these rings come out of the waffle iron. I sprinkled on a little chile powder as well.

This is not only easy and flavorful – this recipe is downright FUN. I promise you will be standing anxiously waiting, waiting, waiting to open up your waffle iron to see what magic has happened!

You will need to makes the slices fit your waffle iron – both in diameter and in thickness. Then, cook them checking frequently to see if they are tender.

You can even let little ones help with tossing the squash into the waffle iron – and then just wait to see their faces when you lift up the top of the waffle iron! Their eyes will grow big when they see the steam come out and the squash covered with checker board squares.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

waffle iron squash rings

The most fun you have ever had with your waffle iron. Guaranteed.

– posted by Donna

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Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: An Homage to a Blue Ribbon Original

October 23, 2014 in Dairy-Free, Desserts, Vegan Recipes

Raw Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes, and a moment of gratitude for the cheesecake recipe that started it all for Donna and Anne.

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: vegan, raw and no refined sugar either.

The first page in my battered and spattered recipe binder is a printout of an email sent to me fifteen years ago, kept safe from the ravages of my cooking habits by a plastic sleeve.

“Hey, we wouldn’t be a family unless we exchanged recipes now and then, would we? So, here’s the cheesecake recipe I was telling you about. It’s pretty good, and I have the ribbon to prove it (somewhere in my attic, okay, trust me!). I have changed the recipe a lot over the years to improve it, and so I feel justified in giving it my name!”

The days are long, the years are short, as the parenting saying goes. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since Donna and I first reunited, but the calendars don’t lie – it was in October of 1999 that I was lucky enough to have a reunion that many adopted children only daydream about. After months of anticipatory email, we met face to face in the San Diego airport, only two years before routinely meeting people at the gate would become a thing of the past. My stomach felt positively carbonated as she emerged from the runway. I watched her looking around for just a moment, searching, and then our eyes met and the moment truly arrived. The mother and child reunion really was only a motion away.

Since that first whirlwind San Diego weekend, we have had one adventure after another, slowly integrating each other into our lives, getting to know each other through out Hotmail accounts, introducing one another to our friends and families, traveling together, sharing holidays, and yes, cooking and eating and cooking some more, making up for at least a little of our lost time. Discovering that we had this passion in common was a revelation; in fact, we inspired each other to delve more deeply into culinary creativity than we ever had individually.  Our collaborations eventually moved on to cookbooks, CIA Boot Camp, and finally this very blog – yet I still look forward to the visits where we whip up a feast for our loved ones, just for the sheer joy of it.

When I made that emailed Blue Ribbon Cheesecake for the first time, I felt as though I was tapping into a tangible part of my own ancestral history, but even beyond that, it was like being able to have a hazy glimpse into an alternate universe where my mom (not my birthmom, but simply my mom) taught me to make it herself, in our kitchen, me licking the beaters, all the clichés that go with halcyon kitchen memories. What would that have been like? But despite occasionally wondering about that universe, I’m deeply grateful to have what we have now.

In honor of the recipe that started it all, I made a “daughter” version of her “mother” recipe, using raw ingredients to make an adaptation that lines up with the way I eat most of the time now, having undergone some valuable dietary changes over the last decade. I already love experimenting with raw/vegan/paleo desserts, but if you’ve never given them a shot, they’re well worth it and, as you can see, really quite simple.

Happy Reunion Anniversary to my first mom. May we spend many, MANY more hours in the kitchen together!

Love and eternal gratitude,

Anne

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Spiderweb Pizza with Black Olive Spiders

October 20, 2014 in Entrees, Vegetarian Entrees

Pizza all dressed up for Halloween!

Spiderweb Pizza

Black olive spiders on a spiderweb pizza.

One easy, fun and festive way to let your food “dress up” for Halloween: Spiderweb Pizza.

With apologies to all y’all who dislike cutesy food, I share this Halloween pizza because, well, it’s just too cute not to share.

I have been making black olive spiders for 30 years – and turning my deviled eggs into spider eggs. So, why not add spider olives to pizza? I asked myself. Turns out, there’s no reason.

For each spider olive, you will need one jumbo olive and one medium olive. CUt the jumbo olive into thin lengthwise slices for use as the spider’s legs. Then, cut the medium olive into halves lengthwise to form the body of the spiders. Annnndd . . . that’s it. Just add these beauties to individual pizzas and turn your easy pizza dinner into a Halloween party!

For the spider web, there are lots of choices: sour cream, cream cheese or Greek yoghurt all work well. You could also use string cheese and use thin pieces of the cheese to form the web. Easy – peasy, I promise!

Happy Hauntings, All!

Spider Pizza

Pizza – all dressed up for Halloween

Other Halloween Pizzas:

Creepy Halloween Pizzas, Katrina’s Kitchen
Ghostly Halloween Pizzas, Foodista
Halloween Pizza, Kelly Bakes

– posted by Donna

Pumpkin-Shaped Pumpkin Mini-Quiches

October 16, 2014 in Breakfast, Dairy-Free, Gluten Free, Holidays, Vegetarian Entrees

More pumpkin goods! An easy, dairy-free autumn breakfast or savory snack.

Pumpkin Mini-Bundt Quiches

Pumpkin Mini-Bundt Quiches

Pumpkin in both shape and content. You could just as easily bake these mini-quiches in regular muffin tins if you don’t have one of these snazzy numbers, and they’d be just as tasty a savory fall breakfast or snack. But if you want to add a little extra seasonal flair, I loved how the quasi-pumpkin shapes turned out. Totally dairy-free, and if you omit the pretzel stick garnishes for stems, paleo as well.   Read the rest of this entry →

Crispy Baked Portobello Fries

October 12, 2014 in Appetizers, Snacks

Portobello slices make crispy baked “fries.”

Portobello Fries

Crispy Mushroom Fries – with Sriracha dipping sauce

We live in times of culinary adventurousness, my friends. I mean, when I was a youngster no one would ever have dreamed of making fries out of anything but good ole Russets. Preferably from Idaho.

But now, all bets are off and fries come from too many vegetables to count. Here at Apron Strings, one of our favorite has been Green Bean Fries. And our Sweet Potato Tater Tots were a huge hit.

I decided to try my luck with mushrooms, and chose Portobellos because the caps can be cut into long planks like home style fries. There are two tricks: One trick is that you have to remove the gills from the caps, because this is where a lot of water comes from and will make your mushroom fries soggy. Then trick two: the oven has to be very hot so that the fries cook quickly.

I loved these fries so much, The Hubs and I stood over the pans eating them fresh out of the oven and we had to make another batch to get photos. Yes, I sacrifice for my art.

– posted by Donna

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Maple Molasses Popcorn Balls with Cinnamon-Glazed Pecans

October 9, 2014 in Holidays, Snacks

Perfect popcorn treats for Halloween parties or any other autumn occasion – using no refined sugar.

Maple Molasses Popcorn Balls

Maple Molasses Popcorn Balls with Cinnamon Honey-Glazed Pecans

What’s a better homespun Halloween treat than popcorn balls? Being a big fan of Wholesome Sweeteners’ line of non-refined, organic options, I experimented with their hearty blackstrap molasses and their lovely golden honey. Both worked fabulously for a twist on the classic sweet and salty treat, made without any refined sugar. Just a tablespoon of the rich molasses was enough to add just the right robustness to the maple syrup – a little goes a very long way! And the honey with the cinnamon and pecans, well, you may want to make a little extra just to nosh on.

Make it a fun project with the kids! Enjoy.

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Frittatatouille Breakfast Skillet

October 6, 2014 in Breakfast, Entrees

Turn leftover ratatouille into Provencal-inspired breakfast magic.

Frittatatouille

Frittata + Ratatouille. What else could you possibly call it?

 

A late-late summer discovery: Leftover ratatouille is the perfect content for a ridiculously easy frittata the next morning for breakfast – especially it it’s also a Meatless Monday Morning. Practically effortless, delicious, low-carb, and happens to be dairy-free if you swing that way. The first step, a night or two beforehand, is making Francis Lam’s Weapons-Grade Ratatouille. It’s seriously spoiled me for all other ratatouilles, and I make it at least 3 or 4 times in late summer now. So, do that, ENJOY, and make sure to reserve about a cup to a cup and a half for the frittata. Then proceed accordingly:  Read the rest of this entry →

Pumpkin Deviled Eggs

October 1, 2014 in Appetizers, Healthy Fare, Holidays, Snacks

Pumpkin – in shape and flavor – deviled eggs.

Pumpkin Deviled eggs

Deviled Eggs with a splash of pumpkin!

October begins today, and you can tell by all the pumpkin recipes on food blogs everywhere. I love fall flavors, and especially pumpkin, so I decided to try pumpkin puree in deviled eggs.

Turns out, pumpkin and eggs are heavenly together!

You just decrease the amount of mayonnaise in your usual deviled eggs and swap it with pumpkin puree. And, we had some season’s end okra in our garden, so the tips made perfect handles for the pumpkins. You could use any green veggie – string beans or green onions or even a piece of bell pepper.

I won’t say how many the Hubs and I ate, but let’s just say this became our dinner after the photo shoot. Just a sprinkle of chili powder on top and these babies are perfect for a fall appetizer, snack, or == ahemmmm  == dinner.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

— posted by Donna

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Low Sugar Baked Apples with Coconut Walnut Stuffing

September 29, 2014 in Desserts, Healthy Fare

Baked Apples just scream out “Fall is here!”

Baked Apples

Low Sugar Baked Apples

I make baked apples every fall for two reasons: (1) they are soft and velvety and comforting and (2) they make my whole house smell delicious!

This version of Baked Apples (and, Yes, I do make a different version every time I make them, depending on my mood) has no added sugar except what is in the sweetened coconut. The sweetness level was just perfect in them, and so I plan on making these again and again this fall. Especially when my neighbors drop off excess apples on our doorstep.

When the air turns crisp and cool, I become a bit nostalgic. I grew up in southern Arizona, so fall leaves were a rarity for us kids. But, there was one place we could always find them: my great grandma’s house! We would load up in the station wagon and drive the 3 hours to her house. There was, of course some unpleasantness, as is expected when you load six siblings into a station wagon. ((Mom, she’s touching me! Mom, he’s looking at me! )) But, it was always worth the trip. You see, my grandma had about a dozen huge pecan trees in her back yard that made a crispy brown leaf ocean from fence to fence. We would rake them up into piles and then the fun would begin. We would jump into them over and over again, howling with laughter. Sort of an Old School ball pool, for you youngsters who can’t envision this scene. And then we would gather up all the leaves and hunt for the pecans. If there were pecans left on the trees, we would shake the trees until they fell off.

I used Braeburn apples for this recipe, which have the perfect sweetness and hold together well while cooking. If you want sweet baking apples, you could also use Jonagold or McIntosh.

Fall is here, y’all – so let’s embrace it! Find a pile of brown crispy leaves to fall over backwards into! Bust out the cardigans! Cook some stews and bake some apples!

– posted by Donna

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IFBC 2014: Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plant-Based Diets

September 25, 2014 in Vegetarian Entrees

Reflections on #IFBC Seattle and the foundations of our food.

Marinated Veg

Marinated Veggie Salad Jars (click through for the recipe!)

 

As predicted and expected, we had a grand time at IFBC in Seattle last weekend. The surroundings, the conversation, the company, the food samplings, and yes, the swag. I always walk away from a conference recharged and refreshed, and this was no exception.

Out of many thought-provoking and entertaining sessions, one of the most engaging was the first, with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg,  two of today’s most renowned food writers who shared their inspiring story with warmth, wisdom and humor. I’ve been a fan for many years, and started using the seasoning guidelines tucked away in the back of my dog-eared, stained and scribbled-upon copy of Culinary Artistry long before they came out with the gloriously exponential expansion of that idea, The Flavor Bible. (Forgive me for sounding like a bit of a hipster.  How did the hipster burn his tongue? He drank his coffee before it was cool.)

Page has just come out with the Vegetarian Flavor Bible, the ebook of which was generously given to attendees to peruse (I can totally vouch for its excellence), and the last part of their presentation was devoted to talking about the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet, with emphasis on veganism – and certainly many have found great results from this approach. Being people who are passionate about all kinds of food and many approaches to health, including those for whom a vegan diet might be detrimental to their health, there was of course some online conversation among attendees; for just a moment, you could sense the #ifbc Twitter stream shifting uncomfortably in its seat.

And then we headed into the beef butchering demo. #ironyorjustuncannyjuxtaposition #thingsyoucantmakeup   Read the rest of this entry →